Wang Yang

Olive branch brings life back to normal in Wukan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 December, 2011, 12:00am

Wukan villagers who have been protesting for days over land grabs and the death of a community leader called off a protest march yesterday after top provincial officials laid out a compromise offer while blaming the conflict on pent-up social ills.

In a sign that months of tension may have been defused, the village's chief negotiator said life and work in Wukan was back to normal and protest banners had been removed after a senior provincial Communist Party official offered concessions including the release of three young villagers from detention and the authorisation of a temporary village committee.

Village leader Lin Zuluan said after a 90-minute meeting in Lufeng with deputy Guangdong party chief Zhu Mingguo and Shanwei party chief Zheng Yanxiong that the village had achieved a 'rather ideal' solution.

'They [Zhu and Zheng] acknowledged the wrongdoings of individual corrupt officials,' Lin said. 'Recognising the legal status of Wukan's temporary village committee paves the way for a future land deal solution to be recognised legally, too.'

He said a committee would operate until villagers found a full solution to the land disputes. Lin said the government had agreed to re-examine the death of village representative Xue Jinbo , who locals say was beaten to death in custody by police.

The compromise offer is being seen as a major victory for villagers that sets a precedent for the handling of riots by provincial governments. Wang Yang , Guangdong's liberal-minded party chief, admitted the villagers had cause to complain. Villagers say they were told President Hu Jintao had twice inquired about the trouble in Wukan.

At an earlier meeting in Lufeng, Zhu quoted Wang as saying the Wukan protests resulted from conflicts arising from breakneck economic development. 'As a responsible government, we must directly resolve these conflicts and issues,' Zhu quoted Wang as saying. But a Guangzhou-based scholar in Wukan said it was still too early to tell if the deal signalled a shift in mindset towards more liberal handling of protests.

Professor Huang Weiping, director of Shenzhen University's Institute for Contemporary Chinese Politics, said it showed improvement in the way mass incidents were handled.

Lin relayed the results of the meeting to village representatives yesterday afternoon and they passed a motion to immediately remove banners, get back to normal life and drop a petition to Lufeng authorities.

News of Wukan's plight was censored by local media, but mainland internet users followed developments on microblogs. Some travelled to Wukan to show their support.

Villager Li Aixiu, 44, said: 'We have come a long way. After months of battle, we can finally stop worrying about police arresting people in the night. But we are still worried about whether we can get our land back.'